6 Tips for Applying to Graduate School
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After finally graduating from undergrad and going on summer vacation, graduate school applications are probably the last thing you want on your mind. A few months off from school may have made you forget that many grad school applications are opening very soon. Don’t stress! Although applying to graduate school seems daunting, there are a lot of small steps you can take to make the process easier for yourself. Soon enough, you’ll be attending the right graduate school for you and getting the degree of your dreams. Until then, here are 6 tips that get you started in the right direction!
- Keep your end goals in mind. Before starting applications, ensure you have the clearest idea of your end-of-the-line career and life goals. There are a multitude of graduate school programs out there, and without thinking hard about your goals, you may just miss a type of program that would have been perfect for you. For example, I personally had always had my heart set on obtaining a doctorate in Psychology or Masters in Psychology degree post-college. However, after thinking more about my career goals, I found that a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling is more up my alley. Do plenty of research and keep an open mind while gathering programs to apply for!
- Research, research, research! After up to four years as an undergrad student, research most likely sounds like a nightmare during your summer vacation. Trust me, I know. However, researching your desired program is the only way you’ll be able to grasp what kind of courses it will entail, required fieldwork, tuition costs, application must-haves, etc. Research must come before you start applying. This sounds self-explanatory, but you don’t want to make the silly mistake of putting time, effort, and money into an application only to find that the program is actually not what you’re looking for or that it’s out of your budget.
- Stay organized. This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Nowadays, there are so many organization tools out there, whether it be agendas, whiteboard calendars, to-do list apps, and more. Personally, I find that making a large digital spreadsheet on Google Sheets is the most effective in keeping all my graduate school application information organized. By listing all your potential schools along with columns including information on their tuitions, locations, testing requirements, and deadlines, you can keep all the important resources in one place and stay sane in the process. This way, you don’t have a hundred tabs open on your computer and an overwhelmed mind.
- Narrow down your choices to 4-7 graduate programs. Many people make the mistake of either applying to too few programs or too many programs, which end up putting them at a disadvantage in the end. Getting into graduate school is no piece of cake, so unless you are 100% confident you’ll get into your dream program, I’d recommend having a few backups. Applying to at least 4 programs is always a smart idea so that you have some options to fall back on if your program of choice ends up not working out. On the other hand, applying to 8 or more graduate programs is a bit on the hefty side, and may leave you feeling burnt out from all the work that goes into applications. Since you want to be able to put your best work into all your applications, narrowing it down to 4-7 programs will ensure you have enough time to submit quality applications while having enough schools to fall back on.
- Ask questions. You are bound to have a bunch of questions come up while going through the graduate school application process. Whether it is about financial aid, your specific program, recommendation letters, or taking the GRE, getting answers to your questions sooner rather than later is always a good idea. Reach out to a family member who has been through the application process, an old professor, or even an admissions counselor at a graduate school you are thinking about! Almost all graduate schools have employees who are specifically there to answer your application questions, and many of them will either email back and forth with you or hop on a phone call ready to help. Definitely utilize these resources!
- Take things one step at a time. Applying for graduate school can be extremely overwhelming, and for some, anxiety-inducing. Make sure you are being patient and kind with yourself, as you will likely experience burnout if you overwork yourself. Nobody completes an application in a day, so use those calendar resources I mentioned before and spread out your application to-dos. Likewise, practicing self-care during these stressful times will help you stay calm and grounded. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, you can use this self-care workbook! Eventually, you will be exactly where you need to be on your graduate school journey. Take it a day at a time. You got this!
Speaking to a professional about applying to graduate school is always a great idea in order to get organized and calm your nerves. If you’re looking for someone to help you prepare for the big interview, efficiently research programs, and perfect your resume, you’re in luck! Rachel offers a mentorship service in which she will assist you with applying to grad school to become a therapist.
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